After capping off my third year of attending the AIPAC policy conference as a high school student, my experiences thus far have left me with a sense of responsibility. While the 2019 policy conference was conducted similarly to the years I have attended in the past, something about this year felt different. The conference is always overwhelming at first. Within a single convention center is a microcosm of Israeli innovation, politics, culture and society, all at the disposal of myself and 18,000 other delegates. However, while walking around in between sessions, I could not help but notice how many other delegates appeared to be of similar age to me. At past conferences I would occasionally notice other teens my age, but the overwhelming sense was that I was much younger than the majority of the other delegates. There was something heartwarming about seeing so many other people my age who had traveled from all over the country to advocate for Israel. I do not know if the large teen attendance is a product of new high school engagement efforts by AIPAC, or if I am simply closing in on the age of responsibility as an advocate of Israel, the age of action.
Every year the other delegates of The Weber School and I attend AIPAC’s student breakout session. The session is typically led by young adults around the age of college students who bring together a promising lineup of speakers and presentations, which cater to the interests and lives of my generation. I walked into the session, sat down among 4,000 other student delegates, and prepared to jot down specific quotes and ideas that I liked. I ended up locking into what the speakers said so intensely that I left the session with only one quote, a quote which perfectly encompassed and reinforced what I quickly discerned while being at the conference.
After all of the innovators, philanthropists, and advocates who were arranged to speak had finished their pieces, the head of the breakout session, a bearded man whose name I did not capture, left the audience with this idea: “How do you make a change? It is written in our constitution: participate. You have made it as far as a policy conference, why stop here?”
I sat and reflected on this call to action, and simply appreciated how the AIPAC experience has prepared me for the next level of political advocacy. Because of AIPAC, I have seen firsthand that people from all walks of life, and all ends of the political spectrum, can be united on a single important issue. And it is apparent to me that it is now my turn. From that point on, when I saw the other delegates of the conference, I did not recognize them as old and young, rather as the past, current, and future leadership of Jewish America.
Will Stanwick is a junior at The Weber School.